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Police chiefs discharged for Mukhtarli’s case

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 24
Georgia’s Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili has stated he dismissed the head of Georgia’s Border Police and the chief of the Counter Intelligence Agency in relation to the case of Azeri journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, who went missing from Tbilisi on May 29 and appeared in custody in Baku next day.

The Minister stressed the step was taken to "exclude any questions in the case”.

“It is very important that the public does not have questions concerning the ongoing investigation [over Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Tbilisi], the effective control of the state border and the effectiveness of the counter-intelligence agency,” Mgebrishvili said.

“That is why chiefs of the Border Police and the Counter-Intelligence Agency will quit their posts before the investigation is over,” the Minister added.

He stressed he was convinced of the innocence of his staff but stated that the crossing of state border took place in an "unclear situation”.

The Minister told journalists that Mukhtarli’s lawyer had been familiarized with the materials of the case and had been provided with video recordings seized from the area where the investigative journalist went missing.

Mgebrishvili stated that Mukhtarli’s wife and child were offered state protection but Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva refused it.

“The dismissal of two high-ranking officials has no importance for the investigation. In June, the head of the criminal police was dismissed, but there was no positive result from this. That's why I expect nothing from it," said Mukhtarli’s wife.

She also touched upon the fact that the investigation was handed over to the Chief Prosecutor's Office from the Interior Ministry.

"We were asking for this from the first day. I hope that something will change in the course of the investigation, but as of now, the police have destroyed almost all the facts about the kidnapping of Afgan Mukhtarli. I do not know how the Prosecutor's Office will investigate this case,” she said.

She stressed the case will be investigated only when the ruling party, the Georgian Dream, will have “the political will”.

As for her refusal of protection offered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mustafayeva said that she and her husband had not been recognized as victims of a crime.

"In the situation when I and my husband are not recognized as victims, why should we be protected? We requested victim's status. We have not been given this status. It is illogical to protect a person who has no victim’s status," she said.

Mukhtarli’s lawyer also stated that the video recordings of cameras at the border, as well on the road which leads to the border, haven’t been shown to them, as the police said “they were damaged”.

Mustafayeva and the Georgian opposition have several times accused the government of Georgia of deliberately handing over the journalist, who had problems with top figures in his homeland due to his investigative activities, to Azeri law enforcers.

The allegations were dismissed by Georgian officials and were hailed as an attempt to "discredit the state bodies responsible for the country’s security”.

The journalist is charged in Azerbaijan with illegally crossing the border and smuggling contraband money. Mukhtarli’s lawyer said his defendant had told him that the police planted €10,000 ($11,200) in his pocket while he was unconscious.

Mukhtarli is currently in pre-trial detention in Baku.